Canada Student Loans – A Fading Hope
The Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions (OSFI) the organization that supervises and regulates all the banks in Canada, has released a report [in PDF format (http://www.osfi-bsif.gc.ca/eng/office/actuarialreports/pdf/CSLP202_updated_exec_e.pdf) investigating the future of the Canada Student Loans Program. In short, as difficult as it is now, it looks as though things may get worse.
The reports findings are really not that surprising to anybody who has actually looked at the trends in tuition and student loans, but we can hope they will serve as a wake-up call to the Minister of Finance and all other government officials who claim to be for equally accessible education.
To begin with, the report presents us with the knowledge that 58% of students will be forced to take advantage of the student loans program, up from the 42% of students that do today. While this is somewhat of an indictment of the current trends in tuition, it does not seem to be that severe of a problem. After all, this still means that almost half the students will not rely on student loans.
The problem becomes more clear when we see that though Statistics Canada has shown that student tuitions are rising faster than inflation (see last week’s article), this report shows that if the government continues on its current course, the maximum amount of student funding available per student will be rising at a rate slower than inflation. With an average annual increase in cost of 1.7% in the maximum loans available, the OSFI reports that in constant 2003 dollars, this change is actually a decrease of 0.9% annually.
The picture gets grimmer, however, when we see that the number of students who are at the loan limit rises from 45% to 84%. To get an idea of the real meaning of these numbers, consider that in any group of 25 students who are taking student loans, these numbers mean that only four of them will be able to afford their entire education. The other 21 will have maxed out their loans already. Clearly, if things continue on in this state, the dream of an accessible education for all will actually become a pipe-dream, nothing more.
International Adult Learners Week
This week is International Adult Learners Week as announced by UNESCO, the Human Resources Department of Canada (http://www.hrdc-drhc.gc.ca/common/news/dept/030904.shtml), and various provinces. It also marks the Canadian start of the “United Nations Literacy Decade.” In Alberta, there are a number of events (http://www.learning.gov.ab.ca/AdultLearnWeek/events.asp) that a person can attend to help celebrate the occasion, including one at Athabasca University on the 27th of September.
It’s hard to not find it a little ironic that a week celebrating adult learners is happening so close to Statistics Canada’s tuition report, and the OSFI report on Canada Student Loans. If the trends from both of those reports continue, we’ll have to change the name of this to International Wealthy Learners Week.
In any event though, if you’re one of the many adult students attending AU, take a momentary break from your studies to celebrate. You’re ahead of the curve already, and our government wants more people to be like you. Now doesn’t that just give you a warm fuzzy feeling inside?
Ontario to the Polls
The Ontario Provincial government has announced (http://ogov.newswire.ca/ontario/GPOE/2003/09/02/c6432.html?lmatch=&lang=_e.html) the next general election will be held on October the 2nd. This is a great time for people to bring issues to the government’s awareness, as politicians have to at least pay lip service to anything we say, and the words “My vote is riding on this:” never holds more value than during campaign season.
So if you’re an Athabasca University student in Ontario, now is the time to ask your provincial government why they are not helping you fund your education like they do for students who are going to traditional universities. This is the best time to ask them whether they think money in the education budget is better spent on bricks or on giving students an actual education. Now is the time to ask them about helping your university to set up invigilation centres where you can write your exams for free.
Most of all, it’s the time to ask them what they’re willing to do for your vote.
A native Calgarian, Karl is perpetually nearing the completion of his Bachelor of Arts with a Major in Information Studies. He also works for the Computer Sciences Virtual Helpdesk for Athabasca University and plans to eventually go on to tutor and obtain his Master’s Degree.